Porchlight, Chicago’s passionate home for classic Musical Theatre, is in the middle of an epic Cole Porter festival (check it out here: https://porchlightmusictheatre.org/the-cole-porter-festival/). Now open is the centerpiece of the fest: a stellar production of Anything Goes at the Ruth Page Center for the Arts in Chicago’s Gold Coast. This is a show worth defrosting your car for. This is a show worth braving winter storm warnings, or sloshing through rain and wind and being gloriously live and in person. This is a show that has got it all: pithy lyrics that set a standard for the genre, tap dancing, bring you to your feet musical numbers, ace comic timing, fast moving plot, sumptuous costumes, and an optimism that we could really use in this century.
The plot is madcap: wealthy businessman Elisha J. Whitney(hysterically funny Anthony Whitaker) is off to London on a ship and his ambitious assistant Billy Crocker ( the amiable and lovable Luke Nowakowski) stows away to follow an heiress, Hope ( the luminous Emma Ogea) who he has fallen for. The only problem: she is getting married for convenience and money to Lord Evelyn Oakleigh (exquisite physical comic Jackson Evans). Billy ends up aligning with gangster Moonface Martin (the charming Steve McDonagh) and your head will be spinning with mistaken identities, revolving doors and disguises and sub plots of romance. Cabaret powerhouse Meghan Murphy as Reno Sweeney, the headline entertainer with a crush on Billy in a role created for Ethel Merman, is worth the price of admission, surrounded and supported by a pitch perfect cast whose work makes you forget whatever sadness and consternation awaits you outside the pretend shipboard in the theater.
Porchlight is presenting the 1987 revival version of this 1934 classic, and the script and score have held up remarkably well, feeling fresh and appropriate ninety years after opening. In the jewel box Ruth Page Center, Michael Weber’s assured direction partnered with Tammy Mader’s delicious choreography and NIck Sula’s de-lovely musical direction create a show that has quality in every corner, highlighting all the beloved aspects of an American masterpiece. It is truly the heart of this Cole Porter celebration. Don’t miss it!
Porchlight Music Theatre’s Anything Goes is running Wednesdays through Sundays through February 25th 2024 at the Ruth Page Center for the Arts 1016 N. Dearborn Street in Chicago. For tickets and information go to www.PorchlightMusicTheatre.org/Anything-Goes
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